Sometimes a career switch is as beneficial as it is necessary. In the case of award-winning author John Vaillant, a change in paths in his mid-30s brought him a completely new level of success.
Vaillant’s former jobs included commercial fishing, construction, teaching and working for a large corporation around race and gender issues, but when he had his first magazine article published in 1997 he found the bug for writing.
“I was thinking of the compromises I could make and other types of jobs that I could do for a certain amount of security, and none of them sat right with me deep down inside,” said Vaillant. “It became intolerable enough that I just decided to focus on getting myself published.”
While travelling around the United States, the American-born writer became interested in travel-adventure stories, as well as how humans interacted with nature.
“There are different ways to experience the world and some people look at things as a business opportunity,” said Vaillant, “but what I saw was stories that I wanted to express through writing. And that’s how my lens worked.”
After seeing his byline in magazines, Vaillant moved on to writing books and has published three since moving from the eastern United States to Vancouver in 1998.
His first book, The Golden Spruce, a non-fiction about tree felling in Haida Gwaii, won the 2005 Governor General’s award. He then published another non-fiction book, The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival, in 2010, and his first novel, The Jaguar’s Children, in 2015.
Vaillant said each of his successive books has been the hardest one he’s written and an important part of his steady development as a writer. He said he is not sure what his next book will be about, though it will probably be another non-fiction.
“I like trying new things and ratcheting up the challenge each time,” he said. “I don’t really want to be a specialist in anything; it’s about getting to understand a new topic and that’s very fulfilling and engrossing.”
Vaillant is currently on a short book tour sponsored by the Canada Council for the Arts, IslandLink Library Foundation and Powell River Public Library that has him circling Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast.
Vaillant said the reaction to his author readings in smaller cities such as Powell River is always a treat, pointing to the willingness of residents of more secluded areas to embrace literacy and outside perspectives.
“People in small towns aren’t inundated with stimuli the way they are in Vancouver,” said Vaillant, “so when someone shows up to do something like this, it’s usually a good turnout and people have a lot of good energy for it.”
John Vaillant’s author reading takes place at Cranberry Seniors Centre 7 pm on Monday, February 29. For more information call 604.485.8664.